Deaths among the homeless are rising by 56% in Los Angeles County

The number of homeless deaths in LA County rose 56% in 12 months, according to LA Public Health on Friday.

From April 1, 2020 to March 31, 2021, there were 1,988 deaths among homeless Angelenos compared to 1,271 in the previous 12 months.

The leading cause of death was drug overdoses, as was the case in the 2021 report, followed by coronary heart disease and COVID-19.

“The findings of this report reflect a true state of emergency on the streets across our county,” LA County Supervisor Hilda L. Solis said in a statement Friday. “In a civil society, it is unacceptable for any of us not to be deeply disturbed by the shocking needs documented in this year’s homeless mortality report. We must redouble our efforts to deal with this crisis.”

Supervisor Solis added that she felt the county needed to do more to prevent drug overdoses and distribution of fentanyl, and suggested that funds from the U.S. rescue plan go to these efforts.

Deaths doubled among younger homeless people aged 18-29, while populations between 30-49 experienced a 70% increase in deaths.

In terms of demographics, the highest increase in deaths came from Latino communities, followed by black and white communities.

“The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on people experiencing homelessness has clearly extended beyond the immediate effects of this new and deadly virus,” said LA Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer. “The pandemic has exacerbated stressors already burdening this vulnerable population, contributing to increases in other causes of death, although COVID-19 mitigation efforts were intensified in shelters and camps.”

The county wrote that its plan to combat deaths among the homeless includes:

  • Expanding and improving field-based, harm-reduction-oriented drug treatment services, with an explicit focus on reaching Latinos and black homeless people.
  • Increasing distribution of naloxone to homeless people in street environments, shelters / temporary housing and exit prisons and prisons.
  • Expanding and improving the use of the Homeless Management Information System by county-contracted substance abuse disorder to improve the coordination of care and housing-focused case management for homeless people with substance abuse problems.
  • Increase investment in Recovery Bridge Housing to secure homeless people, i.a. those leaving prisons and prisons receive outpatient SUD treatment services and permanent housing placements.
  • Implementation of protocols for infectious diseases in shelters, camps and other community settings where homeless people live.
  • Further investigation of homicides and traffic fatalities among homeless people.

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